Marketing Mondays: Lost in Space

Click here for my open letter to Maureen Mullarkey
Back in the early days of Chelsea I was making the rounds with an out-of-town friend. “Wow!" I’d exclaim to her each time we walked into a newly opened gallery, with its high ceilings, particular wall treatments, good light and, often, spectacular views of the Hudson. “What a space!”

Finally, exasperated, she turned to me and demanded, “What about the art?”

Living in a big South Carolina home, she was unaware of the almost mystical power that large spaces have on New York’s tiny-apartment dwellers. Of course she was right. I was spending far too much of my visual energy looking at the walls instead of what was on them.

Are you interested in the gallery's programs or its real estate?

Once I got over the novelty of the Chelsea spaces, I got back to the business of looking at the work on exhibition. If you don’t visit the galleries too often, whether in New York City or elsewhere, it’s easy to get seduced by the space—especially if you’re “shopping” for a gallery. Who wouldn’t want to show in a temple of art?

Focus on The Program
I have a friend who drops off packets to galleries with great spaces. He's so fixated on being shown in in one of them that he pays no attention to their programs. He's still looking.

Look Up
And listen to my friend C, who is a partner in a Chelsea gallery with a beautiful ground-floor space:

“If you don’t have a track record, look upstairs.”

Sure everyone wants to show in those ground floor galleries with the sweeping interior views that beckon from the street, but, she says, “We’re paying an enormous rent. We can’t afford to show an emerging or untried artist. Look upstairs where the rents are lower, where the dealers are able to take more risks.”


While you’re up there
. Consider size: Unless you’re Richard Tuttle or Tomma Abts, if you have small work, a small gallery space will probably be more receptive to considering it

. The opposite is true if you work large

. Consider context: Whatever the size of the gallery, its program—the gallery’s esthetic as expressed by its exhibitions—needs to be of a piece with the kind of work you do

. Appreciate the opportunity, whatever the floor: there are some pretty great galleries upstairs, too

.Eventually (and against the logic of the business world) you just might work your way down

What About the Art?
And here’s a faux pas you don’t want to make, says C: “Don’t compliment me on my ‘beautiful space.’ Do you know how many times I hear that? I know it’s beautiful. I want to know what you think of the show.”

I'd add that brief, thoughtful comments by artists do make a difference in the artist-dealer dialog. Dealers don’t get out too much; they’re in their own galleries when the others galleries are open. A well-informed gallerygoer who connects the dots between and among previous shows in that gallery or among other current shows is a bright spot in the gallerist’s day—assuming they’re up for short chat. Don’t expect gallery representation to come out of it. In fact, don’t expect anything to come out of it except the pleasure of a brief conversation about the art. But your network grows incrementally over time.



Donna Dodson said...

Re: working your way down

I showed in a 2 person show at a gallery in Chelsea that was on the 3rd floor a few years ago and then solo last year in another gallery on the 3rd floor followed by another 2 person show- so now I am going to look at all the 2nd floor galleries and try my luck getting my foot in the door...

On another note, I was in Chelsea yesterday and really enjoyed the Evan Penny Show at Sperone Westwater and the Jan Koop videos at Martos Gallery. FYI there is a documentary film about women in the art world at film forum that is playing through Feb 17th called Our City Dreams that features Kiki Smith, Marins Abramovic, Ghada Amer& Nancy Spero.

Eva said...

You hit the nail on the head. When I worked at a gallery, artists we'd never seen before, who had never visited, walked in with a portfolio and said they wanted to show there because they "like the space." But we were not a hole to be filled. It's the wrong approach completely.

BTW Donna, did you see that film? I have heard of it...

Donna Dodson said...

No, I havent seen it yet- or the other one that's there- Wendy and Lucy- I heard that one is good, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this intriguing peek into the NY gallery world. Compared to Los Angeles, it truly is a completely different world. I don't think there are very many upper-floor galleries in LA. Very interesting!

YHBHS said...

yes barbara, i have to agree about the la galleries. in la, you have to go to new areas, where they show unknown artist, but then again, la is not as dense, so its a difft game here. whenever i go to ny, i am always caught up in the "wow, look at this amazing space!" good posting.

Anonymous said...

FY, I get Film Forum's email newsletter and this just came:

Filmmaker CHIARA CLEMENTE will do a Q&A after tonight's 6pm show of OUR CITY DREAMS.
Artist NANCY SPERO is also expected to attend.